About this Episode
Hi folks, it's Lyn here.
Becoming one of the newest in-laws of the Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh family has been one of the most treasured additions of my entire life.
When Erik and I first met, I only knew the basic history of Charles Lindbergh that we all learned in the 70's and 80's. In my elementary school's play I was Amelia Earhart. In this cute childhood play I sat on a panel with Charles Lindbergh, and The Wright Brothers where a "newscaster" interviewed us about our adventures in flight. Or maybe I was the newscaster? My memory is quite faded, I was just a young child that was proud of scoring a special part in the school play. I digress.
Let's go back to when I met Erik.
When I met Erik, I promised myself I would not read up on the Lindbergh history until after I knew Erik well. I wanted to make sure I was getting to know Erik the human, not Lindbergh the legacy. As we approach our 5th wedding anniversary, I can see clearly with 20/20 hindsight that this was one of my smart-cookie decisions.
Before I met Erik, I would never in a million years have guessed that my life's path would become tethered to a prominent piece of American History. Nor did I have any clue that 90+ years after Charles Lindbergh's historic flight from New York to Paris people would daily be nit-picking what figures in history said, or didn't say, and what it meant. And I most certainly hadn't given any thought as to how this would trickle down to the grandchildren and impact them in profound ways.
After dancing in the Lindbergh circle for six years I now have my own opinions about how the general public approaches historical figures and how countries really need to make better use of their history. Heck, maybe I'll write a book!
But before we get there, I want us to first hear from Erik Lindbergh. In this episode Erik address the historical question that keeps coming up over and over again.
Was Erik's grandfather, Charles A. Lindbergh, antisemitic?
Or more crudely, was Charles Lindbergh a Jew hater?
It's a question that is exhaustively addressed in historical documentation, yet when our current Twitterverse and Alternate History (fictional) stories don't care about facts it leaves us feeling like we are watching a theatre of the absurd.
In light of current events we decided that it was time for us to refresh the public on who Charles Lindbergh was, so you can have a correct and balanced answer to these questions.
So please join me in listening to this conversation with Erik where we peel down the first layer of this onion and begin to answer your questions about who his grandfather was.
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Some of our favorite quotes
My grandfather was not a hater of anyone, he was not a hater of Jews or any other race. He had Jewish friends, he traveled the globe and visited more cultures than anyone of his time. He flew around the world and charted new routes and did that for his whole life.
The longer answer is, this is all nuanced and one of the most contentious times in history; the lead up to World War II and you have to understand my grandfather's perspective.
Eighty-percent of the [United States] population, when he joined this organization called America First was against getting into a foreign war. That was very simple. And grandfather stuck his neck out with them and campaigned against America getting into the war; that was the America First movement that was very popular. The Roosevelt administration was actively working to get us [the United States] into the war as were the British. We now know there were active conspiracies going on by the British to get us into the war. Of course, they [the British] felt threatened and we know that now.
Erik: My grandfather got in trouble for pointing out that Jewish business interests behind the media and Hollywood were pushing us to get into the war and he got in trouble for that. Lyn: And that's the interesting piece, when you say Jewish business interests. It didn't matter whether they were Jew or not, there were people who just happened to be Jewish. It was actually the media he didn't like. Tell us more about that. Erik: Right, I suppose if he would have left the Jewish race out of that statement it would have been benign.
Erik: In order to get in and really understand, you have to walk a mile in his shoes. So you mentioned the media. He didn't hate any race in particular, but he did have a particular animosity against the media. Lyn: Share more. I think a lot of people don't know the story. Erik: Charles Lindbergh was the most famous person on the planet for about 10 years. The media of course followed him, dogged him, stalked him, and wrote false story after false story about him [and others]. This is where he decided it was better to not say anything to the media than to say something and have it twisted which would harm the other people who were a part of that story. So he became very much an advocate of saying "no comment" because if he said something and it was twisted in the media it could actually hurt people or hurt those efforts. Lyn: That's the concept of fake-news. It's been around forever. Erik: And it was rampant back then because there weren't fact checkers and the people writing the stories had to get the copy out and if he [Lindbergh] didn't say anything they would lie or make something up. He felt that the lies were better if they were based on an outright lie rather than based on a partial truth. Lyn: So there's a lot of outright lies and partial truths out there [in print from the WWII era] Erik: So you can imagine that atmosphere, right? And then he marries my grandmother and they are chased all around everywhere, even on their honeymoon. They had elaborate rouses to escape the press [during their honeymoon] but no.
So his life was utterly and irrevocably changed by all of the media attention. This led to the crazies coming out too. He feels that was a contributing factor the kidnapping of his first born son, Charles Jr. who was my uncle, who was kidnapped and held for ransom, and murdered. And then the resulting trial of the century that was hugely publicized, and then that whole circus led to an incident with my father, Jon, when he was a child being driven to school, having the car cut-off and forced over to the side of the road, four guys jump out, ripp the doors open, take pictures of my Dad, so okay it's media and not kidnappers, shut the doors and race off. Oh, they [the press] got a story they got a photograph, whatever. But it lead my grandparents to realize, okay, one son kidnapped and murdered is more than we [Charles and Anne] could handle in the first place. We can't lose Jon, their second son, my dad. They didn't feel safe in America anymore, so they left. They left and moved to Europe. (Erik)
They didn't feel safe in America anymore, so they left.
Lyn: When Charles Junior was kidnapped Anne Morrow Lindbergh was pregnant with your dad [Jon Lindbergh] Erik: Yea. Lyn: That's trauma that stays with a family. Erik: Yes.
To understand it, you have to look and dig. And that's the hard thing because it doesn't fit into a Tweet.
It does a tremendous dis-service to all of the incredible work that Charles did around the globe.
My concern is this [false] narrative [about Charles] might get in the way of the really important work that we are doing at The Lindbergh Foundation. We need to decarbonize aviation because global warming is a threat. We need to solve these issues proactively. It's super important work for the benefit of humanity. This distraction is also an opportunity. I think people who are paying attention will say, oh okay, great, this is the important work here. Let's move into that. (Erik)
Erik: My grandfather did so much important work during his lifetime that the people who dismiss him because of this narrative which is what it is, but it's wrong. Lyn: It just screams that they don't really know their history. Erik: Or well, they'll start to pull little pieces out and say, well this proves it, and this proves it, and this proves it. Well, it doesn't actually. So that narrative bugs me, but it's not me. So, I'm used to it, I'm well adjusted to it.
The most important thing is how we apply ourselves to the future so the next generation can do better and make less mistake than we have, and we fix the things we've broken for the next generation. That's the gift we need to give to them. (Erik)
It hits home to me that we need to stop the hamster wheel of labeling and move beyond, and to talk about this helps us move beyond it. Racism and antisemitism are wrong. They're on the wrong side of history. The holocaust was one of the greatest humanitarian disasters and atrocities of all time; no questions asked. We need to move into a positive future that doesn't tear people down, that builds people up. So that's where I need to spend my energy, and I feel comfortable with that. (Erik)
In order for people to change and have that change stick, we have to give "the other" the people we don't like; we have to give them room to make that change. We have to be part of the solution in building that bridge. (Lyn)
Pointing a finger never builds a bridge. (Lyn)
About Erik and Lyn Lindbergh
An Erik Lindbergh original.
Lyn Lindbergh's award winning book.